Christmas at Our House

Charlie brown Xmas treeChristmas at Our House

When I was very young, my two sisters and I would cut our own tree.  Now this was a long, long time ago when we lived  in the foothills of the Cascade in Oregon. No tree farms.  We would traipse around ours (or our neighbors’) back forty looking for the perfect tree.  What we usually ended up doing was climbing a tree and sawing off the top (crooked, of course) drag it home, get out the two by four stand with a hole drilled in it and try to stand it up…not an easy task.  It usually ended up looking a bit like this.  No matter.  Our ornaments generally consisted of crayoned chains cut from construction paper, strings   of  popcorn (some burnt kernels included) and maybe a very bedraggled star that would not stay upright on the top branch.  We’d step back to admire our handiwork–beautiful.

Our presents were wrapped, no scotch tape in those days, and tied with yarn if we were lucky enough to find some.  When presents arrived from distant grandparents, we would open them without parental knowledge, and try to re wrap them so we wouldn’t get caught…ruined our surprise, of course, as skullduggery often does.  It was the anticipation, the wonder of possible gifts, the inevitable disappointment in the practical gifts received.  Next year…there was always next year.

Christmas Eve was our big celebrations.  Our three children, so close in age, were always as thrilled with the holiday as my sisters and I were.  Cutting our own tree was a continued tradition but now it was on tree farms.    The five of us would brave rain, snow.  Their father,  saw in hand, would wait patiently for us to find the perfect tree which could never be the first one (although we often returned to it after a thorough hunt).  Why is it that the tree looks so small in the field and is so big we can’t get it through the door?  We’d move furniture to accommodate our trophy.

christmas-tree-pics-0111Tradition: colored lights, garlands. tree ornaments with pictures of growing children glued to bright, shiny balls.  Christmas Eve was family exchange but Santa always left his gifts Christmas morning.

Ghosts of Christmas Past:  Granny, Ron’s mother was the best mother-in-law a person could ask for.  I hear you, Granny, playing the old, familiar carols on your organ.  Although we were incompatible in the kitchen, you measured everything and never had a failure, I’d say… a bit of this and maybe some of that…some success and lots of failures.  Remember you bought my first bikini?  My complaint?  It covered everything I had!  You gave me my first car, a tan Chrysler with velvet seats, a piano when you heard me say I would like to learn, ( it was washed away in the flood along with everything else,)  and my first “original” oil  painting, an ocean scene far too expensive for our budget.  Thank you for accepting me and thinking I was good enough for your only son.

LJ, my only daughter who loved me beyond words.  Remember that time when you and I were left to pick out the Christmas tree, LJ?  You always had grand ideas.  It was so big that it covered the entire car with just enough sight through the branches to see our way.   There we were,  a Christmas tree driving down the road!  We barely got it in the house and had to put the star on the top from the second floor.

Your Christmas would start months in advance as you created your lovely wood sculptures, your ceramic,  loving figurines, special gifts to each of us. Where did you get that beautiful voice?  Certainly not from your father or me who can barely carry a tune.    I listen to the music you left me, voice echoing and you are here, celebrating, cajoling, your “get-tough, Ma!” call echoing as I compete in that marathon paddle tournament.

Our loved ones are never gone, they live in the depth of our hearts, in the folds of our memories, a part who we are, with us for all eternity.

Our two sons married incorporating their spouses’ Christmas traditions into their own. Although we did not raise our children within any religious framework, each seemed to find their own “religion” with their spouses.  One has become Catholic, the other  a more “fundamental” approach.  We celebrate with nine grandchildren from age six to twenty-five. The  Christmas Eve celebration remains at our home, packages piled, grandchildren performing their songs, and poems, always reading the Christmas story from Luke. And when we gather around the table there is an Agnostic (me) an Atheist (Ron, who has softened that to a ? being a scientist he needs proof!)  a Catholic family of seven, a Fundamentalist family of six.  We begin our repast with Hail Marys, and end our prayers singing five Amens (the five great religions of the world.)  SO BE IT.

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